More women, better financial performance

Wednesday 21 September 2011, 9:15AM
By University of Waikato

Increasing the number of women on boards of directors is good for business. Dr Stuart Locke,
Director of the University of Waikato’s Institute for Business Research, says they analysed ten years
of data from NZX companies and found increasing the number of women on the board increased
financial performance.

The New Zealand Stock Exchange is proposing new rules that will require all publicly listed
companies to declare the composition of their boards – stating how many women and minorities
they have as directors and in senior roles.

The average percentage of women on NZX top 100 boards is 9.3% while for public sector boards,
it’s 41%. “In global terms New Zealand does not rank well based on NZX figures, which is surprising
given the number of women university graduates,” says Dr Locke. “Most companies seem to ignore
the talent available and their shareholders pay the price.”

The Australia Stock Exchange has changed its rules and that’s led to a 50% jump in female
representation on boards in less than two years. The Australian policy recommends publicly listed
companies have a gender diversity policy. The New Zealand proposal calls for it to be mandatory
and goes beyond gender diversity to include ethnic diversity.

However, Dr Locke also points out that just because women are associated positively with financial
performance in New Zealand, it’s not the case in all economies.

“It’s certainly not a given. Take Sri Lanka for example; female directors are often spouses of the
business owner and only there so the business can distribute income at a lower marginal tax rate –
they’re not expected to know anything about the business and even the courts recognise their lack
of input and do not hold them accountable for any decision making.”